Wintering squirrel in the Arctic could help astronauts in deep space
Researchers are studying dormant Arctic squirrels to take advantage of this strange natural state to protect the health of astronauts during long-duration space missions.
And hibernation is not just sleep. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a dream at all. While we sleep, our brain is activated and becomes very active, while in hibernation, on the contrary, brain activity slows down completely. The body temperature of hibernating animals also drops, in some cases approaching freezing, cells stop dividing, and the heart rate drops to two beats per minute.
However, as soon as it’s time to wake up, sleeping animals come back to life without any serious side effects. However, the same cannot be said for those who wake up from a prolonged drug-induced coma, or even for those who spend long periods in bed.
These people, like astronauts in microgravity, will suffer a wide range of side effects that come from not actively using their bodies: muscle loss, bone loss, and organ deterioration.
Therefore, NASA is engaged in hibernation research in order to develop ways to induce hibernation during future space flights.
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Through a grant through @NASAArmstrongScientists have studied how Arctic ground squirrels maintain muscle and bone mass during hibernation, which may be applicable to future astronauts on long-term space missions: https://t.co/eDAsA1Imgxpic.twitter.com/9A0zWeINTj
— NASA (@NASA) February 4, 2023
The agency recently awarded a grant to Kelly Drew, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who has been studying hibernating animals for more than two decades.
(2023/02/01) Could NASA research on hibernating squirrels help astronauts? | NASA https://t.co/3RxaW6gBII
Lessons learned from the study of wintering Arctic ground squirrels could help researchers understand how the human body functions in zero gravity. pic.twitter.com/F54iJ9o7oU
— matiere* (@matiere) February 3, 2023
“This research could be used to help future missions, from extreme medical hibernation for long-duration space missions to protecting astronauts from cabin fever, ionizing radiation and more,” NASA said in a statement. Weightlessness.
The idea is that instead of astronauts sitting in a tiny Martian capsule for months on food, water and air, bit by bit wasting food and doing little in microgravity, part of the crew could be put into hibernation. Hibernating astronauts don’t need food or water and can carry much less air, but will wake up with bones and muscles in much better shape than their awake counterparts.
Hibernation can also help in the medical environment to help protect patients suffering from life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
“This could mean that stroke or heart attack patients could be put into medical hibernation to slow their metabolism until they are transferred to a hospital for treatment, which could greatly improve medical outcomes,” NASA said in a statement.